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Ann Crumb: From my Memoir, 200 Times a Year. My Life in, At and Around the Theatre



I first saw Ann during the summer of 1972. I was working on the University of Michigan grounds crew, starting grad school in the fall. I was on the grass cutting crew, but it hadn’t rained for eight weeks so there was no grass to cut. When we came in every morning, essentially we were told to go someplace and lay low. I chose the Undergraduate Library, where I sat and read plays all day. One day, tired of all that reading, I moseyed over to the Theatre Dept. to scope it out and heard a rehearsal going on in the Trueblood Audition, so I slipped in and sat in the back to watch. An energetic little man (more about him in another chapter) was staging a scene from A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum. It was the scene at the house of Marcus Lycus, with the three courtesans. I couldn’t take my eyes off the girl playing Tintinnabula, who was a wonderful dancer and very beautiful. Of course, this was Ann.

Ann was not a theatre student — she was getting a degree in speech pathology – but she was one of the stars of the Ann Arbor theatre scene. I didn’t really know her very well, though,  until after I moved to New York. I went to see a children’s play by David Mamet, Revenge Of The Space Pandas, at St. Clements, to see an actress who was in a play I had directed off off Broadway. Ann came to the play, too, to see her friend Margo Martindale (more about her in another chapter), and we reconnected. She invited me over to her apartment for dinner, and we really hit it off. I lived nearby, so I started spending most evenings there when I wasn’t at the theatre.

Bob DeFrank and Ann Crumb in a scene from Witkacy’s The Madman and the Nun

After finishing her degree, Ann had moved to Philadelphia to work at a hospital there, treating aphasia in people who had had a stroke. She missed the theatre, though, so she auditioned for a class at the Hedgerow Theatre. This was typical of her, thinking she needed to take a class. Ann had a huge inferiority complex. Well, after her audition they offered her a job on the faculty, so she taught at Hedgerow for a while in the evenings, after a full day at the hospital. Then a non-Equity touring production of El Grande De Coca Cola in Philly lost an actress, so the producer called the Hedgerow and asked if they could recommend anyone. They recommended Ann and she got the job. From that, she went into a production in Philly of Starting Here, Starting Now, a revue of the songs of Richard Maltby and David Shire, which got her her Equity Card. She then did a couple of seasons at the Philadelphia Theatre Co., playing Ophelia opposite John Glover’s Hamlet and several other roles, before moving to New York. When I reconnected with her, she was working as a secretary in a law office. She wasn’t even auditioning. Well, I viewed this as a huge waste of talent, so I made it my obsession to help her believe in herself again, and to get her back to the theatre. She was full of excuses. She said she couldn’t audition because she had a lousy headshot, so I gave her money for a new one. Then she decided she needed her hair styled before she could go to a photographer, so I gave her money for that. She spent my dough on vet bills for dogs she had rescued. She was an indefatigable dog-rescuer. Finally, she got her hair done and her new headshot, and started going to Equity open calls, mainly for musicals. In those days, open calls actually could lead to a job.

By this time, I was head over heels in love with her.

Around about then, she got her first agent. I took her to a French restaurant, A La Fourchette (which closed many years ago, alas), to celebrate. Bob Bennett, a stage manager friend of mine, had told me I had to see a show which was getting a lot of buzz, playing late nights after his show at what is now the Westside Arts Theatre, a revue about the Boswell Sisters called The Heebie Jeebies, so we went to see it. This turned out to be Pump Boys And Dinettes. What a night! After it transferred, I saw the show several times. It’s one of my all-time faves.

Ann finally got a Big Break when she was cast as Andrea Marcovicci’s understudy in the title role of the musical Nefertiti, which was to open in Chicago before coming to Broadway. Alas, the show closed in Chicago. When she got back to New York, she decided she needed a vocal coach. Bill Schuman, one of the top ones, told her she had to audition for him. At the time, Bill was the vocal coach for Evita, which was casting its first national tour. After hearing her sing, Bill called the casting director and said he had in his studio one of the greatest voices he had ever heard. She auditioned, but the producers decided to go with an actress who had done the role on Broadway since there was only going to be a week of rehearsals. Harold Prince’s assistant was starting to direct productions around the country, though, and he started to cast Ann; so she played Eva Peron at several theatres. I saw her at Theatre by the Sea in Rhode Island. She was astounding.

Her next Big Break came when she was cast in the ensemble of Les Miserables, understudying Randy Graff as Fantine. When Randy left for a week’s vacation, Ann went on. She invited me, and this was one of my greatest nights at the theatre. I still get chills when I hear her voice in my head, singing “I Dreamed a Dream.” She did the show for several months, then Trevor Nunn cast her in the ensemble of Chess, understudying the roles of Florence and Svetlana. Marcia Mitzman (Svetlana) was sick during most of the preview period, so Ann did therole, wonderfully. She then was cast as Fantine in the first national tour of Les Miserables.

While she was at the Walnut Street Theatre in Philadelphia, she got a call to audition for a supporting role in a new Andrew Lloyd Webber musical which was opening in the West End, so she came back to New York for her audition. The casting director heard her sing and then asked her to sing a couple more songs. While this was going on, who should barge in but Lloyd Webber himself, wanting to know who that voice was. He took her into another room, played the score of Aspects Of Love and asked her to sing the songs he had written for Rose Vibert, the female lead. The next day, she was cast in the role, starring opposite Michael Ball.

Aspects Of Love was a huge hit in London, and Ann was the toast of the town. Well into the run, she was injured when a treadmill came on too early in a blackout while she was changing costumes. It caught the heel of her shoe and dragged her across the stage, jamming her foot into where the treadmill went back under the stage, mangling it. She was rushed to a hospital, where she got a big surprise: her insurance through American Equity wouldn’t cover her because she was not acting in an American show. She was part of the exchange program between the Equities. When the unions had set up this program, apparently what would happen if someone got hurt had never occurred to them. Her only option was to sue the producer, Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Company, and the theatre owner, Cameron MacIntosh. While this was going on, she had several operations on her foot, although she was told she would probably never be able to perform again, or possibly even walk. Eight months later, she opened on Broadway, wearing special orthopedic shoes designed for her foot. In London, the stage floor had been cobbled. On Broadway, the cobbles were two-dimensionally painted so Ann could walk.

with Michael Ball

By this time, Frank Rich of the NY Times had decided he had had it with “bloated British mega-musicals,” so he panned the show. Despite this, it held on, building an audience, so the Times began running negative pieces about it, trying to twist the knife. Although the show was nominated for a Tony Award, Ann herself was snubbed. Ann’s contract for Broadway was for six months, near the end of which Lloyd Webber decided he could turn the show into a hit by replacing Ann with a star. The role was offered to several stars, one of which was Patti Lupone, who told the casting director that she was unavailable as she was in a TV series and, anyway, she couldn’t sing the role. She said she knew of only one actress who could sing it. “Who?” asked the casting director. To which Lupone replied, “Ann Crumb.” She then called Ann and told her about this, which is when Ann learned that she was being replaced. Then Sarah Brightman, Lloyd Webber’s estranged ex-wife who had become a star when she played Christine in The Phantom Of The Opera, decided she would like to play Rose. She was angry that the film of The Phantom Of The Opera in which she was to play Christine was delayed and Andrew wanted to mollify her as the couple were in the midst of a contentious divorce, so he gave her the role. He then closed down the production and rehearsed Sarah for three weeks with a full orchestra and cast. He also reorchestrated the role, lowering it so she could sing it. It was the most expensive cast replacement in Broadway history. When Sarah was ready, critics were reinvited. They were unimpressed (particularly, Rich), so the show closed a few weeks later.

with Michael Ball

Meanwhile, Ann’s suit was settled out of court and she received a big chunk of money, which she used to buy the second floor of an old church in Brooklyn Heights, which she converted into a fabulous loft with stained glass windows and a cathedral ceiling. Her career, though, was irrecoverably damaged. She had become persona non grata to the casting directors, who were afraid of incurring the wrath of Lloyd Webber and MacIntosh. Was she blacklisted? It’s hard to say, but she it’s undeniable that she went from being considered for every show to having no auditions.

A year or so later, I got a call from Nancy “Pinkie” Bosco, Circle in the Square’s literary manager (as well as the wife of the great actor Philip Bosco). Pinkie told me that the theatre was going to do a production of a musical version of Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and asked me if I could recommend anyone for the title role. They had done a workshop of the show with Melissa Errico as Anna, but had decided she was too young for the role. They had considered several actresses recommended by their casting director but felt none were suitable. Mind you, this was at a time when the casting directors seemed to have “forgotten” about Ann. Pinky hadn’t, though, and when I told her Ann was perfect for the role she agreed, and Theodore Mann, the theatre’s Artictic Director (who was directing the show) cast her. The show wasn’t very good, partly because Ted Mann was not an experienced director but mostly because the two guys who wrote it hadn’t seen Les Miserables. How can you do a musical adaptation of another great 19th Century novel without having bothered to see Les Miserables? Although the reviews for the show weren’t very good, Ann’s notices were excellent and she received a Tony nomination. Alas, Anna Karenina was Ann’s last Broadway show.

In London, though, she was still a star from Aspects Of Love. She played Louisa in the London premiere of Nine, opposite Jonathan Pryce as Guido Contini. There is a recording of this production on You Tube, so you can hear her thrilling renditions of Louisa’s two songs, “My Husband Makes Movies” and “Be On Your Own.” She also starred in the London production of The Goodbye Girl, in the role originated on Broadway by Bernadette Peters. Back in the U.S., she did tours, most notably a hugely successful one of Man Of La Mancha, in which she played Aldonza opposite John Cullum’s Cervantes/Quixote. I saw it in Baltimore and Ann received a screaming standing ovation at her curtain call. She was offered the role in a Broadway revival but then the offer was withdrawn when the producers decided they needed a bigger “name,” who turned out to be singer Sheena Easton. The show flopped.

Ann also did some work Off Broadway. She was excellent in a revival of RAGS at the American Jewish Theatre, in which she played the role originated on Broadway by opera star Teresa Stratas and was hilariously evil in a musical version of the film Johnny Guitar, although one legacy of that was that she injured her knee during a fight scene and eventually had to have knee replacement surgery. About this time, she started doing shows in the Philadelphia area, where she was sort of “local girl makes good.” She did Goblin Market at the Wilma Theatre and several shows at the Media Center for the Performing Arts, where she played Florence Foster Jenkins in Souvenir and Maria Callas in Master Class. The last show she did there was a scaled down production of Sunset Boulevard, as Norma Desmond, a role she had played two or three times before at theatres arund the country. Anne was a coloratura soprano, but in “New Ways to Dream” she went down into the depths of her range and was astounding. I blurted out, “Oh my God!” when she did this. I couldn’t help it. When she came out afterwards, she asked me “Was that you? I knew that was you!”

At this point, I have a few personal anecdotes about Ann to share with you. Ann loved Snickers bars. I always brought her a couple of them when I took her to the theatre. One night about eleven o’clock, early on in our relationship, my phone rang. I was in bed, asleep. I picked up my phone and heard, “Snick! Snick!” I got dressed and went out into a driving rain to find her some Snickers bars figuring, finally, this was gonna be my night.The entrance to Ann’s apartment was in the rear of a house. There was an alleyway which led to a heavy, black, steel door which opened onto the street. I rang her buzzer and heard her walking down this alleyway. Then the black door opened with a creak and I heard, “Did you get them? “Yes, Ann,” I said, and held up the bag of Snickers bars. A hand reached out through the door opening and took them. “Thank you,” she croaked, and then the door slowly closed with a creak and a clang. I trudged back in the rain to my apartment.

Ann could be quite a handful. She was, to put it mildly, time-challenged. Whenever I took her to the theatre she would always ask me what time she needed to be ready, and I would always tell her fifteen minutes before the actual time, in order to get to wherever we were going on time. She and her boyfriend Vince lived together when Ann moved to Brooklyn Heights, and he became one of my dearest pals, almost like a brother. Once, he told me, Ann was flying off to do a show, but she dithered and dithered. Vince kept silent, knowing if he bugged her about the time she would Just. Go. Slower. Predictably, she missed her flight. Vince helped her book another one, which was four hours later. Then he wished her a good flight and turned to leave. Ann was flabbergasted. “Aren’t you going to wait with me? She asked. “No, Ann,” Vince replied. “I want you to sit there by yourself for four hours and think about why it was that you missed your flight.”

As I mentioned earlier, Ann was a dedicated dog rescuer. She always had a least two – sometimes, three — dogs living with her. She would find dogs on the street, pay vet bills for them and then place them far and wide. She spearheaded the rescue of the dogs orphaned by Hurricane Katrina, hundreds of them, organizing caravans to deliver them to new homes all over the country. One day, I went over to her apartment to visit her and she asked me to drive her around Brooklyn Heights to look for a stray she had seen earlier in the day. After about two hours, we were unsuccessful in our search – but she wanted to keep going. It drove her nuts that she never found this dog. She paid thousands of dollars to kill shelters to hold off euthanizing dogs until she could find them homes. Let me tell you, there is a special shrine in Doggy Heaven dedicated to Ann Crumb.

Ann’s father, George Crumb, was a Pulitzer Prize-winning composer. He began writing vocal music, and Ann sang it all over the world and recording Grammy-nominated albums. She also had an act in which she sang jazz, performing this worldwide and recording an album, “A Broadway Diva Swings.” You can hear her on You Tube singing some of her father’s compositions as well as the best songs from her jazz album.

in Sunset Boulevard

In 2017, Ann was diagnosed with advanced ovarian cancer. She had it all cut out and went through chemotherapy. Finally, it was in remission; but in 2019, it came back, spread all through her. She started hemhorraging and was taken to the emergency room, but it was too late. She was brought home to her parents’ house in Media to die. I drove out there to see her one last time. She weighed less then 90 ponds and was so heavily-sedated it was like she was in a coma. I sat vigil along with Vince, her family and several friends. A day later she died, never regaining consciousness.

When I get to Heaven, I plan to look for her. I’ll just listen for the sound of barking dogs.

For over thirty years, Lawrence Harbison was in charge of new play acquisition for Samuel French, Inc., during which time he was responsible for the publication of hundreds of plays, by new playwrights such as Jane Martin, Don Nigro, Tina Howe, Theresa Rebeck, William Mastrosimone, Charles Fuller and Ken Ludwig among many others; and the acquisition of musicals such as Smoke on the Mountain, A…My Name Is Alice and Little Shop of Horrors. He has edited over 100 anthologies for Smith and Kraus, Inc. For Applause Theatre & Cinema Books, he has edited several monologue, full length, 10-minute and 5-minute play anthologies. Currently, he is editing books solely for Applause. He has set up a new division for Applause to publish and license individual full length plays, as well as the World Premiere Club. His column, “On the Aisle with Larry,” appeared in the Chelsea Clinton News and the Westsider for several years and then moved to In December of 2019, it began running on the Applause website, It also appears on his blog at and on, the international playwrights database. He also writes occasional columns for Theatre Record, a London-based magazine. He was a member for many years of two NYC press organizations, the Outer Critics Circle and the Drama Desk, and served on the Drama Desk Awards Nominating Committee for the 2010-2011 and 2011-2012 seasons. He works with individual playwrights to help them develop their plays (see his website, He has also served as literary manager or literary consultant for several theatres. He taught playwriting in the Theatre Dept. of the University of Michigan in the winter semester of 2016. He holds a B.A. from Kenyon College and an M.A. from the University of Michigan. His book, How I Did It: Establishing a Playwriting Career, a collection of interviews with playwrights, was published by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books in March, 2015. His latest anthologies of monologues and 10-minute plays were published in December, 2019 by Applause Theatre & Cinema Books.


Parade: A Musical That Asks Us Do We Have The Eyes And Ears To See.



Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

I have always loved Jason Robert Brown’s score for Parade. “You Don’t Know This Man,” “This Is Not Over Yet” and the wonderfully romantic “All the Wasted Time” are just the tip of the iceberg for music that stirs your soul and tells a tale of heartbreak. There is a reason this score won the Tony Award in 1999.

Ben Platt Photo By Joan Marcus

The musical now playing on Broadway dramatizes the 1913 trial of Jewish factory manager Leo Frank (Ben Platt), who was accused and convicted of raping and murdering a thirteen-year-old Mary Phagan (Erin Rose Doyle). The trial was sensationalized by the media, newspaper reporter Britt Craig (Jay Armstrong Johnson) and Tom Watson (Manoel Feliciano), an extremist right-wing newspaper aroused antisemitic tensions in Atlanta and the U.S. state of Georgia. When Frank’s death sentence is commuted to life in prison thanks to his wife Lucille (Micaela Diamond), Leo was transferred to a prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, where a lynching party seized and kidnapped him. Frank was taken to Phagan’s hometown of Marietta, Georgia, and he was hanged from an oak tree. 

Erin Rose Doyle, Photo by Joan Marcus

The telling of this horrid true tale begins with the lush ode to the South in “The Old Red Hills of Home.” Leo has just moved from Brooklyn to in Marietta, where his wife is from and he has been given the job as as a manager at the National Pencil Co. He feels out of place as he sings “I thought that Jews were Jews, but I was wrong!” On Confederate Memorial Day as Lucille plans a picnic, Leo goes to work. In the meantime Mary goes to collect her pay from the pencil factory. The next day Leo is arrested on suspicion of killing Mary, whose body is found in the building. The police also suspect Newt Lee (Eddie Cooper), the African-American night watchman who discovered the body, but he inadvertently directs Starnes’ suspicion to Leo.

Across town, reporter Britt Craig see this story as (“Big News”). Mary’s suitor Frankie Epps (Jake Pederson), swears revenge on Mary’s killer, as does the reporter Watson. Governor John Slaton (Sean Allan Krill) pressures the local prosecutor Hugh Dorsey (the terrific smarmy Paul Alexander Nolan) to get to the bottom of the whole affair. Dorsey, an ambitious politician sees Leo as he ticket to being the Governor and though there are other suspects, he willfully ignores them and goes after Leo.

Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox Photo By Joan Marcus

The trial of Leo Frank is presided over by Judge Roan (Howard McMillan). A series of witnesses, give trumped up evidence which was clearly is fed to them by Dorsey. Frankie testifies, falsely, that Mary said Leo “looks at her funny.” Her three teenage co-workers, Lola, Essie and Monteen (Sophia Manicone, Emily Rose DeMartino, Ashlyn Maddox), collaborate hauntingly as they harmonize their testimony  (“The Factory Girls”). In a fantasy sequence, Leo becomes the lecherous seducer (“Come Up to My Office”). Testimony is heard from Mary’s mother (Kelli Barrett ) (“My Child Will Forgive Me”) and Minnie McKnight (Danielle Lee Greaves)before the prosecution’s star witness, Jim Conley (Alex Joseph Grayson ), takes the stand. He claims that he witnessed the murder and helped Leo conceal the crime (“That’s What He Said”). Leo is given the opportunity to deliver a statement (“It’s Hard to Speak My Heart”), but it is not enough. He is found guilty and sentenced to hang. The crowd breaks out into a jubilant circus.

Alex Joseph Grayson Photo by Joan Marcus

Act 1, is not as strong as it should have been. I have attended three different incarnations, the last being with Jeremy Jordan as Leo and Joshua Henry as Jim in 2015. Part of the problem is Michael Arden’s direction. Instead of allowing his performers to act, he has them pantomime, as the solo goes forth. “Come Up to My Office” was not as haunting as in past productions. The same can be said of “That’s What He Said”. Who’s stands out in the first act is Jake Pederson as Frankie and Charlie Webb as the Young Soldier who sings “The Old Red Hills of Home.”

Micaela Diamond and Ben Platt Photo by Joan Marcus

In Act 2, Lucille finds Governor Slaton at a party (the hypnotic “Pretty Music” sung wonderfully by Krill) and advocates for Leo. Watson approaches Dorsey and tells him he will support his bid for governor, as Judge Roan also offers his support. The governor agrees to re-open the case, as Leo and Lucille find hope. Slaton realizes what we all knew that the witnesses were coerced and lied and that Dorsey is at the helm. He agrees to commute Leo’s sentence to life in prison in Milledgeville, Georgia, which ends his political career. The citizens of Marietta, led by Dorsey and Watson, are enraged and riot. Leo is transferred to a prison work-farm. Lucille visits, and he realizes his deep love for his wife and how much he has underestimated her (“All the Wasted Time”). With hope in full blaze Lucille leaves as a party masked men kidnap Leo and take him to Marietta. They demand he confess and hang him from an oak tree.

Paul Alexander Nolan, Howard McMillan Photo By Joan Marcus

In Act Two Parade comes together with heart and soul. Diamond, who shines brightly through out the piece is radiant, and her duets with Platt are romantic and devastating. Platt comes into his own and his huge following is thrilled to be seeing him live. Alex Joseph Grayson’s also nails his Second Act songs.

Dane Laffrey’s set works well with the lighting by Heather Gilbert.

Frank’s case was reopened in 2019 and is still ongoing.

Parade has multiple messages and the question is will audiences absorb it. I am so glad this show is on Broadway, making us think and see. This is a must see.

Parade: Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre, 242 W 45th Street.

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Ken Fallin’s Broadway: Celebrating Hadestown’s 1000th Performance



On Sunday, March 19, 2023, Hadestown celebrated the first day of spring and the show’s recently-achieved milestone of 1,000 performances at Broadway’s Walter Kerr Theatre.

The handsome artist with Anais Mitchell

On hand were songwriter Anaïs Mitchell and director Rachel Chavkin, Tony Award winner Lillias White, original Broadway cast member Jewelle Blackman as Persephone, Grammy Award winner Reeve Carney as Orpheus, Tony Award nominee Tom Hewitt as Hades, and two-time Tony Award nominee Eva Noblezada as Eurydice. were joined by Amelia Cormack, Shea Renne, and Soara-Joye Ross as the Fates. The chorus of Workers is played by Emily Afton, Malcolm Armwood, Alex Puette, Trent Saunders, and Grace Yoo.

The winner of eight 2019 Tony Awards including Best New Musical and the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album, Hadestown is the most honored show of the 2018-2019 Broadway season. In addition to the Tony and Grammy Awards, it has been honored with four Drama Desk Awards, six Outer Critics Circle Awards, including Outstanding New Broadway Musical, and the Drama League Award for Outstanding Production of a Musical.

Following two intertwining love stories — that of young dreamers Orpheus and Eurydice, and that of King Hades and his wife Persephone — Hadestown invites audiences on a hell-raising journey to the underworld and back. Mitchell’s beguiling melodies and Chavkin’s poetic imagination pit industry against nature, doubt against faith and fear against love. Performed by a vibrant ensemble of actors, dancers, and singers, Hadestown delivers a deeply resonant and defiantly hopeful theatrical experience.

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Broadway Up Close (R) Gives Dance Workshops In Times Square



A fun way to get active, learn and have fun: InterContinental New York Times Square has partnered with Broadway Up Close to provide monthly dance workshops. The new series offers the opportunity to learn choreography with current Broadway professionals, and to join them in conversation about their Broadway careers.

On Saturday, April 15, 2023 join Broadway Performer Sarah Meahl (Bad Cinderella, Hello, Dolly!, Kiss Me, Kate) and on Sunday, May 13, 2023 – Broadway Performer Thayne Jasperson (Hamilton, Newsies, Matilda).

All classes are scheduled from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm and include 60 minutes of dance class and 30 minutes to learn and connect.

Following the class, an à la carte lunch menu is provided at The Stinger Cocktail Bar & Kitchen for an additional cost; perfect timing for a matinee performance.

Tickets are $36.25 and you can tickets here.

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